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Baccalà alla Vicentina & Baccalà alla Cappuccina

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Baccalà alla Vicentina With Polenta

Baccalà alla Vicentina With Polenta

© Kyle Phillips, licensed to About.Com
Simone Parkes wrote, "I have vague memories of a baccalà paste that was made with garlic and olive oil after the fish was poached in milk, I think it may have been from Venice? Have you heard of anything like this? From memory it was very yummy served with fried polenta."
This sounds like baccalà alla vicentina, one of the classic recipes for baccalà in the Veneto region. Here's what Dino Coltro says in La Cucina Tradizionale Veneta, beginning with a snippet of dialect:

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings baccalà vicentina

Ingredients:

  • Stoccafisso, or baccalà if you'd rather (see note)
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Parsley
  • Milk

Preparation:

El baccalà l'e bon se el se ghe fa, i.e. baccalà becomes tasty if it's properly cooked. To do this every cook has a secret recipe. There are, however, two basic methods: baccalà alla vicentina and baccalà alla capussina.

Before we go any further, and important point. Baccalà in most of Italy is salt cod, sold by the slab. However, the Vicentini use the word to refer to dried cod, what is known as stoccafisso in most of italy, or stockfish in the English-speaking world. If you feel you must, you can use baccalà instead of stoccafisso; in this case you certainly won't need to pound it. Returning to the recipe:

Baccalà alla vicentina was in the past pounded into tenderness with a wooden rod and then soaked in cool water for at least three days. Once it had softened, it was broken up but not fragmented (gastronomes would skin it), and drowned in a hot skillet containing oil or lard, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper that had already reached the perfect shade of gold (don't let the garlic burn). To call it vicentina, one has to add rinsed, boned salted anchovy fillets, parsley, and garlic, which have been pounded in a mortar with milk, flour and cheese so as to make a paste, and simmer it.

The baccalà cooks slowly, for about 4 hours, absorbing the seasonings, and thus becoming soft and tasty.

Baccalà alla capussina is made from fairly thick pieces of baccalà that have been pounded and soaked, and boiled in lightly salted water (figure 8-10 minutes' boiling per inch thickness of fish). When the fish is cooked remove it from the water, keeping the pieces intact if possible, pat it dry, crumble it, and transfer it to a plate. Season it with olive oil and abundant minced garlic and parsley; you should be well aware of both.

Mr. Coltro doesn't give quantities for the flour-garlic-parsley-cheese-etc. mixture to be added to the baccalà alla vicentina. For about 2 pounds of fish (800 g), Ada Boni suggests 4 anchovies, 3 cups (750 ml) milk, and 3/4 cup (40 g) grated Parmigiano, and says to add dry white wine to the fish if need be to keep it from drying out as it simmers, which sounds sensible. How much garlic? "Some." Likewise for parsley; I'd go with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup minced parsley and 3-4 cloves garlic to start out with and add more if I wanted. And a couple of tablespoons of flour.

Wines? White, and I might go with a Soave.

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